Betsy's Reviews > A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
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's review
Aug 21, 2007

it was amazing
Read in August, 2007

Humor is just so hard in children's books. You either crash too hard on the adult side of the equation (see: The Manny Files) or you end up going too far the other direction and end up ridiculously scatological (see: Out of Patience). The balance has to be perfect and, if you want your book to be memorable, also work in some real emotion, heart, and (God help us all) learning. Because this mix is so difficult, you rarely end up with a book quite as pleasant as Linda Urban's "A Crooked Kind of Perfect". First of all, it wins the 2007 Most Appropriate Title Award. Second, it has a firm grasp on hitting just the right tone. In a relatively blah year of realistic girl fiction, Urban's book is a cut above the rest.

Zoe has dreams you know. Dreams of owning a gorgeous piano, all shiny and black. Of performing before vast adoring audiences. Of being a prodigy and admired by people like her classically inclined mother. So what does she get instead? An organ. A Perfectone D-60 if you want to be precise. And it's not as if her school life is much of an improvement either. Her former best friend Emma Dent has informed her that Joella Tinstella is now her best friend right now, and to top it all off that bully Wheeler Diggs has somehow managed to ingratiate himself into her family. So when Zoe enters the Perform-O-Rama competition for organs she doesn't expect much. Fortunately for her, she finds that people can surprise you when you least expect them to. Sometimes for the bad, but also sometimes for the good.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm fairly certain that we haven't come up with a name for children's novels with short short chapters. You know the kind I mean. They look like verse novels at first, but a quick perusal shows that the author hasn't broken up the action into strategically separated tiny sentences. I think the author chose this method because she prefers to keep things sharp and sweet. Her storyline works best when she can leap from thought to memory to current event. Some parents like to pooh-pooh those children's books that eschew length for sure-footed pacing. I'll admit right here and now that due to its format "A Crooked Kind of Perfect" really does make for an enjoyably quick book. You might want to consider handing it to those kids who like to read but are turned off by long wordy novels.

If the book has a problem it probably concerns the lack of dramatic tension. For example, one day Wheeler's mildly pissed about something and yet the next time Zoe sees him she says, "I thought you might not come back here ever." It's a rather extreme sentence considering the two of them never ever really fight. There is some tension regarding Zoe's parents and their presence in her life, so that may make up for the lack of problems elsewhere in the book. Yet as a former resident of Southwestern Michigan, I'd have enjoyed a little more clarification as to the location of this book. The competition is in somewhere called Birch Valley? Aw, make it Kalamazoo. You could totally have a competition there.

Tiny nibbles of complaints aside, it's a swell read. Characters are crystal clear and their motivations make perfect sense. Urban wields the infinitely difficult first person narrative with aplomb. And, all that aside, it's about a kid who plays the organ. That's just a good high-concept idea right there. One of the more pleasant first-time novelist surprises of the year.
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message 1: by Alexa (new) - added it

Alexa Ray I hope it's good!

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